The cause of beriberi is a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine). The body needs vitamin B1 to convert carbohydrates into energy. This is why a thiamine deficiency first affects the cells that need a particularly large amount of energy (heart, muscles, nerves). A deficiency can be life-threatening.

In poorer countries, beriberi occurs as a result of malnutrition. In richer countries, alcoholism is the greatest risk factor for thiamine deficiency.

Symptoms of beriberi (vitamin B1 deficiency)

  • Lack of concentration and impaired memory
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • apathy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Weakness in performance
  • Apathy
  • gastrointestinal problems, nausea
  • tingling, numbness of hands and feet, falling asleep of limbs
  • muscle weakness up to muscle atrophy
  • Gait disturbances
  • Speech disorders
  • rapid pulse
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

For a long time, thiamine hydrochloride was given as tablets or injections for treatment. Increasingly, however, benfotiamine, a fat-soluble form of vitamin B1, is being used. This can be absorbed particularly well due to its fat solubility and achieves a 5- to 10-fold higher bioavailability.

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